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Animal and Visitor Interactive Experiences at Think Tank

Many of the enhancements to Think Tank were made possible by a generous donation from the Hattie M. Strong Foundation in honor of Hank Strong.

Orangutan PullOrangutan Pull

Just how strong is an orangutan? Sources say that orangutans are anywhere from six to ten times stronger than an adult man. Come test your strength with the Orangutan Pull inside the Think Tank exhibit. Here you can play tug o’ war with an orangutan, they pull the rope inside their enclosure, while you pull your rope outside of the enclosure. But who will win?

Because of the orangutan’s incredible arm strength, the Orangutan Pull has been outfitted with a hydraulic mechanism so that the playing field is evened up a bit. (And also so that the orangutans don’t send you flying into the enclosure glass!)

At Smithsonian’s National Zoo the orangutans are allowed to choose several of components of their day. They can choose to travel on the O Line, they can choose where they want to spend the night, either at the Great Ape House or at Think Tank, and they also get to decide whether or not they want to play tug o’ war. Primate interpreters lead unscheduled demonstrations with the Orangutan Pull frequently in the afternoons at 2:30 p.m. to allow visitors to test their strength against the zoo’s orangutans.

Orangutan Mister

Outside Think Tank at the orangutan outdoor yard is another visitor and animal interactive. The orangutan mister system has been a big hit in the summer months. Our orangutans have two buttons installed in the corner of their outdoor yard. One button that they press allows them to cool themselves off with a nice misting of water. The other button, when pressed, sprays the visitors outside standing in the “Wet Zone” with a mist of water.

Which button do you think the orangutans enjoy pressing the most?

The orangutans at the National Zoo are given a lot of choice and control in their own lives. It is their choice to press the buttons and get you or themselves wet. This interactive is one of the orangutans’ favorite games. We think they enjoy the reaction of the crowd when they press the button and make them all get misted in the “Wet Zone”.

Orangutan Webcam

Smithsonian’s National Zoo has dozens of webcams placed throughout the zoo to allow visitors an exclusive look into the lives of our animals when you can’t get to the zoo. Ever wonder whether orangutans might like to know what is going on too? Now the orangutans that choose to spend the night at Think Tank are able to view the webcams at the Great Ape House. Orangutans use their touchscreen computer to control and pan the webcams at the Great Ape House, allowing the Think Tank orangutans to keep tabs on their friends in the other building.

Visitor Memory Test

How does a human’s memory compare to an orangutan’s? This first-of-its-kind memory interactive is based on cognition work with the orangutans conducted by Karyl Swartz and Erin Stromberg. Visitors test their ability to freely recall photographs from a list seen previously and compare their scores to those of the Zoo’s orangutans.

Are you smarter than an orangutan? Take the test and find out!

Termite Mound

Which tool works best? One of the main themes of the Think Tank exhibit is tool use in animals. Chimpanzees and other apes have perfected the art of using tools in their everyday lives. But not every tool works in every situation. Apes have learned to modify tools in their environment to get the best use out of them. Termite fishing is a behavior that is often seen in wild chimpanzees and certain tools work the best to be able to extract the most termites out of their mound at a time. The termite mound in Think Tank lets you work to determine which simulated ape tool gets you the most bang for your buck. Don’t worry, no actual termites are used!

Norway Rat Exhibit (RATS!)

These intelligent animals display flexibility, which is the most important aspect of the definition of thinking presented in Think Tank. Rats have been used extensively in laboratory research studies on learning theory, which is demonstrated through their different mazes. The exhibit was built thanks to a generous grant provided by the Smithsonian’s Women’s Committee. The rats can travel back and forth between their two main cages using a tube system that runs above your head. Love them or hate them, rats have been an integral part of all scientific theories and methods and we highlight their intelligence at Think Tank.

Norway rats

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Watching orangutans: The Zoo is home to six orangutans, four females and two males. They have access to the Great Ape House and Think Tank, a place to think about thinking. Native to tropical rainforests, orangutans are Asia's largest primates and the world's largest tree-dwelling animals.
Meet the Orangutans | Download the Zoo's app